Allison's Book Bag

Sora and the Cloud by Felicia Hoshino

Posted on: April 23, 2014

Especially when I was younger, I used to imagine being able to play in the clouds. To me they looked like castles and chariots. When I had the opportunity to take an airplane trip, I’d even fancy myself climbing out of the window and taking a ride on the those billowy balls of cotton. For these reasons, I welcomed Sora and the Cloud by Felicia Hoshino.

A young boy who likes to climb steps from a tree onto a friendly low-hanging cloud, which takes him for a ride. Sora and his new friend float up into the sky where they view the city landscape. There’s a skyscraper, where Sora’s father works. Then there’s an amusement park, with rides that “whirl in a kaleidoscope of motion”. Next there are kites, which “swirl and squeal”. Higher up are fireworks, which whisper “like the soft pitter-pattering of your heart”. Sora even gets to meet some rain clouds. There’s plenty of adventure to be experienced when riding on a cloud!

The story text is simple, with most pages just having one to two sentences, and can be easily read by young readers. Speech bubbles enhance the story. The soft pastel illustrations are pleasing on the eye, and gently compliment the whimsical story with their combination of quiet hues, mixed paint formats, and colored papers. Spreads are intricately detailed and provides young readers with entrancing visuals. One reviewer also noted that if the detailed illustrations aren’t enough, readers can play spot-the-squirrel! Hoshino has hidden an adorable squirrel on almost every page. So far, all is good.

Hoshino wanted Sora and the Cloud to be bilingual, both English and Japanese, so that she and her husband could enjoy reading it to their children in each of their natives languages. On this level it succeeds as a multicultural text. If one takes the time to read the back pages, one will also appreciate the notes on the Japanese expressions. One problem I have here though is that young American readers, however, tend to overlook supplementary features. Another problem I have, because I am trying to evaluate whether this picture book should be included or not in a multicultural collection, is that  Sora and the Cloud felt very “American” to me. For example, the pictures are all of San Francisco and the main characters seem to have blonde hair, which goes against my preconceptions of Asians. However, this is also where I admit to an inexperienced eye, because other reviewers have observed such visuals as the use of chopsticks by the father. Also, the back pages do refer to cultural inspirations to at least four of the illustrations.

Whether or not one discerns Japanese culture in it,  Sora and the Cloud is an imaginative and pleasant story. Many of those who have purchased Sora and the Cloud have referred to their pleasure at finding such an enjoyable book with a bilingual translation. Seems like a win-win situation for all readers.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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